By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Martin Kvitle should have been able to rest easy Saturday night.
Friday night, though, sleep escaped him.
After the Quincy High School boys basketball team's loss at home to Moline -- it was the Blue Devils' third straight loss -- Kvitle kept waking up to the sound of Quincy coach Sean Taylor barking at him to play defense.
"He called me out and I'm glad he did," Kvitle said. "I wasn't playing it. I don't know why. It's not who I am. It's not who Quincy is. ... The number of times he said. I honestly couldn't sleep. I woke up hearing him say, ‘Defense.' It was grinding on me and I was going to come out and I wasn't going to let my guy score."
The Blue Devils followed Kvitle's lead.
With the senior point guard limiting Jacksonville's Brendan Barlow to just three points, Quincy put together one of its best defensive efforts of the season in a 43-32 victory Saturday night at Blue Devil Gym.
The Crimsons shot 35.5 percent from the field (11 of 31) and 9.1 percent from 3-point range (1 of 11) as the Blue Devils put an end to their losing streak on Senior Night.
"Yesterday, Coach said, ‘Don't you get tired of hearing me say, ‘Would you play some defense?' ' " Kvitle said. "It shouldn't take him saying that. As a leader on this team, it really shouldn't. It grinded on me."
In turn, the Blue Devils (16-7) grinded down the Crimsons (17-9).
Not only did Quincy limit the interior touches by Jacksonville's burly frontcourt, but the Blue Devils forced the Crimsons to buckle defensively with efficient ball movement.
Quincy had seven assists on eight first-half field goals and built a 26-15 halftime lead. Overall, the Blue Devils had 10 assists on 11 field goals, with Kvitle having eight assists.
"We were patient on offense and got the ball where we needed it to be," senior forward Jason Salrin said.
The Blue Devils made just three field goals in the second half for two reasons.
One, they went to the free-throw line 12 times in the fourth quarter, making 10. Two, with the Crimsons willing to stay back in a zone defense, the Blue Devils limited possessions by milking the clock.
Jacksonville had only seven possessions in the third quarter, while Quincy had eight.
"Sometimes you'll be impatient and want to do too much against a zone," Taylor said. "Our guys didn't. They took what Jacksonville gave them."
It started down low.
Trailing 4-3 nearly four minutes into the game, Quincy scored three straight times inside of 5 feet. Junior forward Luka Radovic came off the bench to score on back-to-back touches, and junior forward Connor Mellon added a reverse layup for a 9-5 lead.
"I thought we went inside-outside, and it always helps to make shots," Taylor said. "That spreads the defense out. We got the lead and Martin, Mason (Fairley) and Zach (Burry) did a great job handling the ball."
Then the shooters went to work. Kvitle and Burry made back-to-back 3-pointers -- Kvitle hit his with 3.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter, while Burry buried his on the opening possession of the second quarter -- as the Blue Devils went 4 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half.
"We knew we were going to have to work that zone," said Kvitle, who led Quincy with 16 points as he made 13 of 15 free throws. "We had to be patient. We would give up a shot to get a better one."
It led to 50-percent shooting from the field in the first half and 44-percent shooting overall.
Better yet, it wiped away three games of frustration.
"I was really happy for our seniors to go out with a win," Taylor said. "I think they've done a good job of building on the great tradition of Quincy basketball. To go out on this game, that's a memory they'll have the rest of their lives."